Patrick Henry, Sr. (1736 - 1799) MP

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Nicknames: "Patriot"
Birthplace: Studley plantation, Hanover County, Virginia, USA
Death: Died in Brookneal, Charlotte County, Virginia, USA
Occupation: Lawmaker, Governor of Colonial Virginia, Governor, Orator, American Revolutionist- "Give me Liberty, of give me death!", U.S. Founding Father
Managed by: Carol H. Clark
Last Updated:

About Patrick Henry, Sr.

DAR Ancestor #: A053828

Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 - June 6, 1799)[1] served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786. A prominent figure in the American Revolution, Henry is known and remembered for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech, and as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential, radical[2] advocates of the American Revolution and republicanism, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights. After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists who opposed the replacement of the Articles of Confederation with the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered many of the individual freedoms that had been achieved in the war.

Early years

Henry was born in Studley, Hanover County, Virginia on May 29, 1736.[3] His father was John Henry, an immigrant from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who had attended King's College, Aberdeen before immigrating to the Colony of Virginia in the 1720s.[4] Settling in Hanover County, about 1732 John Henry married Sarah Winston Syme, a wealthy widow from a prominent Hanover County family of English ancestry.[5] Patrick Henry was once thought to have been of humble origins, but he was actually born into the middle rank of the Virginia gentry.[3]

Henry attended local schools for a few years, and then was tutored by his father. After failing in business, in 1754 he married Sarah Shelton, with whom he would have six children. As a wedding gift his father-in-law gave the couple six slaves and the 300-acre Pine Slash Farm. Henry began a career as a planter, but their home was destroyed by fire in 1757.[3] Henry made another attempt at business,which also failed, before deciding to become a lawyer in 1760.[3]

" ... [in 1757] Patrick and Sarah moved into the tavern owned by the Sheltons, and Patrick tended bar and played the fiddle to entertain the customers ..."

Henry first made a name for himself in a case dubbed the "Parson's Cause" (1763), which was an argument about whether the price of tobacco paid to clergy for their services should be set by the colonial government or by the Crown. After the British Parliament overruled Virginia's Two Penny Act that had limited the clergy's salaries, the Reverend James Maury filed suit against the vestry of Louisa County for payment of back wages. When Maury won the suit, a jury was called in Hanover County to determine how much Maury should be paid. Henry was brought in at the last minute to argue on behalf of Louisa County. Ignoring legal niceties, Henry delivered an impassioned speech that denounced clerics who challenged Virginia's laws as "enemies of the community" and any king who annulled good laws like the Two Penny Act as a "tyrant" who "forfeits all right to his subject's obedience".[6] Henry urged the jury to make an example of Maury. After less than five minutes of deliberation, they awarded Maury one penny.[7]

Stamp Act

Patrick Henry was elected from Louisa County to the House of Burgesses, the legislative body of the Virginia colony, in 1765 to fill a vacated seat in the assembly. When he arrived in Williamsburg the legislature was already in session. Only nine days after being sworn in Henry introduced the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions, "in language so extreme that some Virginians said it smacked of treason".[8]

The freshman representative waited for an opportunity where the mostly conservative members of the House were away (only 24% was considered sufficient for a quorum). In this atmosphere, he succeeded, through much debate and persuasion, in getting his proposal passed. It was possibly the most anti-British American political action to that point, and some credit the Resolutions with being one of the main catalysts of the Revolution. The proposals were based on principles that were well-established British rights, such as the right to be taxed by one's own representatives. They went further, however, to assert that the colonial assemblies had the exclusive right to impose taxes on the colonies and could not assign that right. The imputation of treason is due to his inflammatory words, "Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!"

According to biographer Richard Beeman, the legend of this speech grew more dramatic over the years. Henry probably did not say the famous last line of the above quote, i.e. "If this be treason, make the most of it." The only account of the speech written down at the time by an eyewitness (which came to light many years later) records that Henry actually apologized after being accused of uttering treasonable words, assuring the House that he was still loyal to the king. Nevertheless, Henry's passionate, radical speech was cause for notable interest at the time–even if his exact words are unknown.

American Revolution

Patrick Henry is perhaps best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, in Saint John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. The House was undecided on whether to mobilize for military action against the encroaching British military force, and Henry argued in favor of mobilization. Forty-two years later, Henry's first biographer, William Wirt, working from oral testimony, attempted to reconstruct what Henry said. According to Wirt, Henry ended his speech with words that have since become immortalized:

   Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!

The crowd, by Wirt's account, jumped up and shouted "To Arms! To Arms!". For 160 years Wirt's account was taken at face value, but in the 1970s historians began to question the authenticity of Wirt's reconstruction.[9] Historians today observe that Henry was known to have used fear of Indian and slave revolts in promoting military action against the British, and that according to the only written first-hand account of the speech, Henry used some graphic name-calling that failed to appear in Wirt's heroic rendition.[10]

In August 1775, Henry became colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment. At the outset of the Revolutionary War, Henry led militia against Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in defense of some disputed gunpowder, an event known as the Gunpowder Incident. During the war he served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia and presided over several invasions of Cherokee Indian lands.

Henry lived during part of the War at his 10,000-acre (40 km2) Leatherwood Plantation in Henry County, Virginia, where he, his first cousin Ann Winston Carr and her husband Col. George Waller had settled.[11] During the five years Henry lived at Leatherwood, from 1779 to 1784, he owned 75 slaves, and grew tobacco.[12] During this time, he kept in close touch with his friend the explorer Joseph Martin, whom Henry had appointed agent to the Cherokee nation, and with whom Henry sometimes invested in real estate, and for whom the county seat of Henry County was later named.

In early November 1775 Henry and James Madison were elected founding trustees of Hampden-Sydney College, which opened for classes on November 10. He remained a trustee until his death in 1799. Henry was instrumental in achieving passage of the College's Charter of 1783, an action delayed because of the war. He is probably the author of the Oath of Loyalty to the new Republic included in that charter. Seven of his sons attended the new college.

On October 25, 1777, Patrick Henry married his second wife, Dorothea Dandridge (1755–1831). From this marriage came eleven children.

Later years

After the Revolution, Henry again served as governor of Virginia from 1784 to 1786, but declined to attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787 saying that he "smelt a rat in Philadelphia, tending toward the monarchy." An ardent supporter of state rights, Henry was an outspoken critic of the United States Constitution and led the Virginia opposition to its ratification arguing that it gave the federal government too much power and that the untested office of the presidency could devolve into a monarchy. As a leading Antifederalist, he was instrumental in forcing the adoption of the Bill of Rights to amend the new Constitution and became a leading opponent of James Madison.

Henry served as a representative to the Virginia convention of 1788 that ratified the U. S. Constitution. He voted against ratification.[13] He was chosen as an elector for the 1789 election from Campbell District.[14] That District consisted of Bedford County, Campbell County, Charlotte County, Franklin County, Halifax County, Henry County, Pittsylvania County, and Prince Edward County, which cover the area between Danville and Lynchburg in the south of Virginia [15] All of the 10 electors who voted cast one of their two votes for George Washington. Five of them cast their other vote for John Adams. Three cast theirs for George Clinton. One cast his for John Hancock. One cast his for John Jay.[16] Clinton was a leading Antifederalist,[17][dubious – discuss] a view which he shared with Henry.

President George Washington offered Henry the post of Secretary of State in 1795, which he declined out of opposition to Washington's Federalist policies. However, following the radicalism of the French Revolution Henry's views changed as he began to fear a similar fate could befall America and by the late 1790s Henry was in support of the Federalist policies of Washington and Adams. He especially denounced the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which had been secretly written by Jefferson and Madison, and approved by the legislatures of those two states. He warned that civil war was threatened because Virginia, "had quitted the sphere in which she had been placed by the Constitution, and, in daring to pronounce upon the validity of federal laws, had gone out of her jurisdiction in a manner not warranted by any authority, and in the highest degree alarming to every considerate man; that such opposition, on the part of Virginia, to the acts of the general government, must beget their enforcement by military power; that this would probably produce civil war, civil war foreign alliances, and that foreign alliances must necessarily end in subjugation to the powers called in."[citation needed] In 1798 President John Adams nominated Henry special emissary to France, but he had to decline because of failing health. He strongly supported John Marshall and at the urging of Washington stood for and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates as a Federalist.[18] However, three months prior to taking his seat in the state legislature, he died of stomach cancer on June 6, 1799, while at Red Hill, his family's large plantation. Following his death, Henry's widow remarried the Virginia governor's first cousin and executor Judge Edmund Winston.[19]

Monuments and memorials

Monuments are located at his home and grave site, designated Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial.

At least three ships have been named in his honor: the Civil War Confederate Navy steamboat CSS Patrick Henry, the first World War II Liberty ship launched, SS Patrick Henry, and ballistic missile submarine USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599). Also named in his honor, Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia, eight high schools (including three in Virginia, more than for any other person in the Commonwealth), and Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia. The Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation was established as a living legacy to Patrick Henry on property near his grave site donated by the Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial. It is a Christian residential facility for at-risk youth. Henry helped to establish the Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. It is the 10th-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. Six of Patrick Henry's sons graduated from Hampden-Sydney. The Patrick Henry Scholars are named for him. Future United States president William Henry Harrison also graduated from the College in 1791.

Fort Patrick Henry was a colonial fort built during the American Revolutionary War along the South Fork Holston River at the present-day site of Kingsport, Tennessee. This fort serves as the namesake of Fort Patrick Henry Dam and the reservoir that it forms on the river.[20] Camp Patrick Henry was a United States Army base from late 1942 to the late 1960s and was a 1,700-acre (6.9 km2) complex in Newport News, Virginia. Since decommissioned, it is the site of the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport on 925 acres (3.74 km2) of the old location. The airport opened in 1949 and was originally called Patrick Henry Field. The airport code is still PHF for the beginning letters of the old name.

On October 7, 1955, the United States Postal Service issued the $1 Liberty Issue postage stamp honoring Henry.

Other places named in honor of Patrick Henry include Henry County, Virginia, Henry County, Kentucky, Patrick County, Virginia, Henry County, Georgia, Henry County, Ohio, Henry County, Tennessee, Henry County, Alabama, Henry County, Illinois, Henry County, Missouri after an 1841 name change, and Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg, Germany.

Patrick Henry Writings and Biography

HENRYSM.gif (6629 bytes) Click for larger image. Patrick Henry before the Virginia House of Burgesses.; Rothermel, Peter F.; 1851

Henry, Patrick; 1736-1799; lawyer, statesman, Revolutionary leader; member of Va. legislature 1765, when he introduced famous Resolutions, and made celebrated address, against Stamp Act; member of 1st Va. Convention and of 1st Continental Congress, 1774; in 2nd Va. Convention, 1775, made his famous "Give me liberty or give me death" address; member of 2nd Continental Congress, 1775, and of 3rd Va. Convention, 1776--helped draft first Va. "Constitution" and declaration favoring Independence, May, 1776; Governor of Va. several terms; opposed ratification of U.S. Constitution--fearing danger of usurpation and abuse of power by Federal government and demanding amendments to limit its power more strictly.

Biographical data courtesy of The American Ideal of 1776: 12 Basic American Principles.

Writings on LEXREX:

"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death", March 23, 1775 - Famous speech by American Patriot, Patrick Henry.

On the Duty of Christian forgiveness - Quote by Patrick Henry.

Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?, June 5, 1788 - Patrick Henry speaking in the Virginia Convention for ratifying the Federal Constitution.

Anti-Federalist Papers - (Specifically nos. 4, 34, and 40:4 in the collection we have online). Various writings of the day appearing in newspapers, presenting opposing views to the Federalist Papers. These were selected and edited by Morton Borden. Many more writings like this exist than are included here. We hope to expand the collection in the future.

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Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Copyright 1995-1999,Jawaid Bazyar

-------------------- Info added per DAR's "Lineage Book of the Charter Members" by Mary S Lockwood and published 1895 states:

"Patrick Henry was commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces and first governor of Virginia."

He was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786. Henry led the opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765 and is well remembered for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential exponents of Republicanism, promoters of the American Revolution and Independence, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights. After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists in Virginia who opposed the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered the rights of the States, as well as the freedoms of individuals.

Links

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=472

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Patrick Henry, Sr.'s Timeline

1732
October 1732
Rural Plains, Hanover County, Virginia
1736
May 29, 1736
Hanover County, Virginia, USA
1755
June 1755
Age 19
Pine Slash, Hanover County, Virginia
1756
1756
Age 19
Hanover , Virginia
1763
1763
Age 26
Fork, Hanover County, Virginia
1767
July 19, 1767
Age 31
Roundabout, Louisa County, Virginia
1769
April 23, 1769
Age 32
Hanover County, Virginia
1771
1771
Age 34
Scotchtown, Hanover Co., Virginia
1777
October 25, 1777
Age 41
1778
August 2, 1778
Age 42